Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.; syn., Lolium arundinaceum Darbyshire) are cool-season grasses commonly used for lawns in temperate regions of North America. However, these grasses can be exposed to heat stress during the growing season in temperate regions. During high stress events, kentucky bluegrass can become dormant and lose pigmentation (Beard, 1973; Su et al., 2007). Tall fescue has increased heat and drought tolerance, but it is usually not selected over the finer textured kentucky bluegrass. Researchers have been developing heat-tolerant bluegrasses through hybridization of kentucky bluegrass and texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera Torr.). Texas bluegrass has similar visual characteristics as kentucky bluegrass and, with higher temperature tolerance, can be grown as a substitute for kentucky bluegrass in warmer climatic regions but is poorly adapted for temperate and transition regions (Read et al., 1994). The resultant hybrid heat-tolerant bluegrass (P. pratensis × P. arachnifera) is reported to have the ability to survive heat stress events (Su et al., 2007) and, from visual comparison, may be able to maintain tissue pigmentation [carotenoids and chlorophylls (Chl)] throughout the growing season (Su et al., 2007; Teuton et al., 2007). However, nothing in the literature has been reported on the pigment concentration independent of the stress events and during the stress events.
Carotenoids are lipid-soluble yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized in higher plants, fungi, algae, and bacteria. Carotenoids function to help harvest light energy during photosynthesis and to dissipate excess energy before damage occurs. Within the thylakoid membranes of chloroplast organelles, carotenoids are found bound to specific protein complexes of the photosystems. Carotenoids are located in both the antenna pigments and the photosynthetic reaction center (Peng and Gilmore, 2003; Taiz and Zeiger, 1998). When the absorption of light radiation exceeds the capacity of photosynthesis, excess excitation energy can result in the formation of triplet excited chlorophyll (3Chl) and reactive singlet oxygen (1O2). Carotenoid pigments protect photosynthetic structures by quenching excited 3Chl to dissipate excess energy (Tracewell et al., 2001) and binding 1O2 to inhibit oxidative damage (Demmig-Adams et al., 1996; Tracewell et al., 2001). The carotenoid molecule then slowly releases this excess energy as heat and inhibits further oxidative damage. Carotenoids are also integral constituents of membranes (Peng and Gilmore, 2003; Taiz and Zeiger, 1998) and may be involved in structural stabilization of membranes and reduction of lipid peroxidation (Frank and Cogdell, 1996).
Carotenoid accumulation appears to be shaped by a plant species’ physiological, genetic, and biochemical attributes as well as environmental growth factors such as light, temperature, and fertility (Kopsell et al., 2004; Kurilich et al., 1999; Lefsrud et al., 2005, 2006). Kurilich et al. (1999) reported genotypic differences among subspecies of Brassica oleracea L. (broccoli) accounted for 79% of the variance of β-carotene concentration, 82% of the variance of α-tocopherol (vitamin E), and 55% of the variance of ascorbate (vitamin C). Therefore, it is critical to consider both genetic and environmental influences when determining plant carotenoid accumulation.
Nitrogen (N) is critical in plant growth and development and is an essential component of amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, and many enzymes. Plants grown under limited N levels have reduced Chl a and Chl b pigments, resulting in stunted plants and characteristic leaf chlorosis (Marschner, 1995). Increased additions of N usually result in increased yield of crop plants (Hochmuth et al., 1999; Mills and Jones, 1996). However, toxicity from overapplication of N concentrations is possible but is not very common in turfgrass. Therefore, proper N management is critical for optimum plant performance.
Seasonality effects caused by increases in irradiance, photoperiod, temperature, and rainfall can directly influence the growth and photosynthetic rate of plants, resulting in increased production of carbohydrates and total biomass (Mills and Jones, 1996). Summer-grown kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala D.C.) had higher lutein and β-carotene concentrations than kale grown during winter months when light levels and photoperiod were reduced (de Azevedo and Rodriguez-Amaya, 2005).
Kentucky bluegrass is the major temperate weather turfgrass, but it becomes dormant and loses pigmentation during either individual or combined drought and heat stress events (Su et al., 2007; Teuton et al., 2007). With the development of heat-tolerant bluegrass cultivars, dormancy has become less of an issue and the grass is able to better retain more of its visual quality during stress conditions. However, it is unclear whether traditional and heat-tolerant turfgrasses are able to accumulate plant pigments (lutein, β-carotene, and Chls) over the growing season to allow the turfgrass to tolerate stress events. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the accumulation patterns of lutein, β-carotene, Chl a, and Chl b in the leaf tissues of heat-tolerant and nonheat-tolerant turfgrass between turfgrass species, N fertility, and sampling time (during the spring and summer seasons).
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Bremer, D. Su, K. Keeley, S. Fry, J. 2003 Drought resistance of two texas bluegrass hybrids compared with kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. K-State Turfgrass Research SRP 911 Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service 67 77
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